I recently posted on the board as a wine newbie looking for some guidance as I set about broadening my wine knowledge beyong "red or white". Your feedback was terrific and I followed all of it including reading some suggested books, enrolling in a Wine 101 course and going to different wine shops to pick some brains and, of course, purchase and try differnt wines. Here is my initial observations on the journey into wine exploration and education:
Wine Stores- Finding a good wine shop was harder than expected. There are a lot of the superstores that tend to focus on quantity of selection and price but are limited in their selection of quality wines. The ones that I find most frustrating are the shops that immediately push the wines sitting in the bins or the end of the aisle. I have had more than one clerk tell me that the owner was pushing certain wines because they purchased a lot of it and it was not moving. I have a hard time with that approach. However, with enough patience you will finally find a shop that has knowledgable and passionate staff that are enthusiastic about wanting to teach you. Surprisingly, these shops prices are about the same as the others. I am still very early into this but I think it is safe to say that finding an honest wine shop, and probably finding several wine shops, is one of the most important factors for the beginner.
European wines- We have found that we enjoy a French Bordeaux much more than a California Cab and we enjoy a French Burgundy much more than a domestic Pinot Noir. We even enjoy some of the Italian Cabs more than the California Cabs. As a beginner I find the differences dramatic and fascinating. One wine shop owner told me that it has to do with the roots being tougher in Europe and the traditional wine making in France versus a more modern approach in California.
Other countries: As if there was not enough to learn already, I had to go out and confuse myself and get a great Malbec from Argentina and a Pinot Noir from Germany called Spatburgunder.
I have to admit that I am having fun with my trial and error approach to wine education. I don't know if I will ever totally figure out the French wines, it seems so varied and different than the other countries, but since my wife has fallen in love with red Bordeaux, I will have to learn. I know that all of my comments are overly general but I just wanted to share the thoughts of a newbie since you have all been so much help. Thanks!